Professor Steve Field warns failing GP surgeries face closure

Doctor in consulting room
Image caption GPs will face tougher scrutiny under a new system being introduced by the CQC

Failing GP surgeries in England have been warned they face closure by the NHS's first chief inspector of GPs.

Prof Steve Field, who starts his role on Tuesday, also wants local doctors to offer services seven days a week.

However, the Royal College of GPs says the profession is already at "breaking point" and longer working hours could put quality of care at risk.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has reiterated his calls for GPs to improve their care for the elderly.

Prof Field was appointed by the Care Quality Commission last month to oversee the quality of care provided by GP surgeries across England.

Speaking to the Guardian, the former chair of the Royal College of GPs indicated his willingness to improve standards in poorly performing surgeries by using sanctions, such as fines and the suspension of licences.

He said: "I will not hesitate at all to order the closure of GP practices that we find to be unsafe, or providing poor access, or which do not care for patients properly or treat them with dignity.

"While we've got some of the best general practice in the world, it's let down by a small percentage of practices which aren't providing appropriate access or quality of care," he added.

'Breaking point'

Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said doctors would be prepared to take on more work but not at the risk of patient care.

She said: "The concept of widespread weekend access is laudable but quality of care must never be sacrificed for access and GPs are already working 11 hour days, with some making up to 60 patient contacts in a single day.

"No doctor in the NHS should be expected to work weekends on top of this without a break. It is not safe or sustainable, for patients or GPs."

Dr Gerada also said GPs should be fairly remunerated for their work.

She added: "GPs currently make 90% of patient contacts within the NHS - for only 9% of the budget.

"We are keen to do more but the profession is now at breaking point and we do not have the capacity to take on any more work, without the extra funding and resources to back it up.

"We are calling on the government for an emergency package of additional investment for general practice to protect GP services and protect the care we deliver to our patients."

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